By Katie Webb, Editorial Editor
Finally, in the third episode of the battle rounds on "The Voice," Hofstra graduate Erin Willet took the stage, or rather the boxing ring. Willet and her opponent, Gwen Sebastian, were matched face-to-face in a winner-takes-all singing challenge. Their coach, Blake Shelton, and special guest celebrity coaches helped the artists prepare to sing Pat Benatar's "We Belong."
"I have two dynamic singers and (the song) has a dynamic side, but you also have a tender side," Shelton said to his dueling team members. "Whichever one of you finds a way to tap into that the most and really dig down deep is gonna be the winner."
Sebastian, a North Dakota native and sweet country crooner, seemed to have the edge from the start. The one obvious flaw in the show, or advantage depending who you ask, is the coach's human weaknesses. For instance, last year Shelton ended up with four girls at the end because he felt fatherly toward them. He also favors the singers who have "a country heart" like Sebastian.
Willett had other challenges to overcome as well. Though her father has already passed in the alternate time warp that is the pre-recorded battle rounds, her father was still struggling to stay alive. Her mother gave her grave news before the performance.
"He took a turn for the worst," Willett said to coach Shelton with tears brimming over her eyes. "The nurses gave him 24 hours." Her fight to keep her mind in the competition while her heart was off with her ailing father, struck a chord with Shelton.
"You've worked your whole life for this," Shelton consoled her. "I know he wants you to be doing this."
Back in the practice studios, Willet prepared herself with help from celebrity, Kelly Clarkson. Known for her powerhouse presence and vocals, Willett received some valuable advice on how to hone in on the more subtle nuances of her voice.
"That break!" Clarkson said emphatically to Willett as her falsetto quavered softly. "That break is pretty. Show some of the sweetness in your voice."
As for Sebastian, who will be entering the ring with Willett, she has the utmost respect for her competitor.
"Erin and I have become close... and I want the audience to feel like it's a show, not a battle," Sebastian said. Coached by special guest country music star Miranda Lambert, Shelton's wife, Sebastian gained even more of an edge.
When the performers finally met in the ring, they both performed with passionate feeling and power. Dancing around each other, locking eyes and sparring with everything they had, both competitors gave the judges reason to cheer.
"Part of me feels like you played it safe," Shelton said to Willett. Her eyes grew large and panic crossed her face. "But then I think gosh, what else can you do?" With those awe-striking words Shelton called Willett the victor of the battle.
"I did it for my dad... I love him," Willett said after her win.